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Reviews Written by
Char Louise (Yorkshire, UK)

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The Escape: The gripping new psychological thriller from the Sunday Times bestseller
The Escape: The gripping new psychological thriller from the Sunday Times bestseller
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars easy to read thriller that I devoured on a couple ..., 23 May 2017
A fast paced, easy to read thriller that I devoured on a couple of train journeys. I’ve been meaning to read one of C. L. Taylor’s books for a while so I thought I’d start with her latest one. As an anxiety sufferer myself, I could relate to the descriptions of Jo’s state of mind as she struggles to cope with the daily routine of her life, and the lack of understanding from people around her, exacerbated by the fact that now there really does seem to be someone out to get her and bad things really have started happening. But, as many anxiety sufferers have found, in the face of real problems Jo can and does step up and cope.

*spoilers* I suspected as soon as it was mentioned close to the beginning that there was some secrecy around why her mother had left Ireland that that would tie in with current events. And sure enough, Jo escapes to Ireland as a means of keeping her daughter safe and avoiding investigations by the police and social services. But once there, her parents’ secret catches up with her. The identity of the person who was setting Jo up was a bit of a surprise but somehow a bit of a let down too; Paula is who she says she is and Max really has taken something from her. I’d hoped that Paula was actually someone connected to Jo/Brigid’s past who wanted revenge. But I liked how the ending pulled both strands together and there was some reconciliation and hope. Jo also seemed to have become a lot stronger.

I would read another of C. L. Taylor’s books as I like fast paced thrillers to read on the train. I may read The Accident next.


The Humans
The Humans
Price: £5.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars funny novel with some laugh out loud moments and some ..., 17 May 2017
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This review is from: The Humans (Kindle Edition)
A light hearted, funny novel with some laugh out loud moments and some poignant moments that show how contradictory and bizarre the rules are that govern human lives. I read it while on holiday and it was a perfect holiday read, philosophical in places but not too heavy.

I discovered Matt Haig after reading his non-fiction book about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, and the theme of mental illness and suicide is strong in this book too. But it’s not intended to be a depressing novel, as the humour and positive reflections on the nature and meaning of human life make it quite uplifting. I think it's up to you whether you want to read it as a sci-fi novel - that the protagonist really is an alien from another planet - or whether he is and always has been Andrew Martin, suffering from delusions stemming from mental health issues, some of which he shares with his son, Gulliver.


The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year
The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year
Price: £2.84

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But I found enough enjoyment to persevere, 15 May 2017
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I bought this because it was the Waterstones Book of the Year for 2016 and then I saw that the Kindle version was down to 99p. However, I found it slightly tough going: the sentences and paragraphs were too long, with a lot of description and not much dialogue, and first half of the novel seemed to jump around a lot, constantly switching perspective. Nothing much really seems to happen for most of the novel and a lot of it is just following the changing scenery of Essex and the lives of the characters as they progress through the year, and when some excitement/action does happen, it seems to occur very suddenly and out of nowhere, with no time to build up tension (i.e. Edward’s operation, Luke’s stabbing).

But I found enough enjoyment to persevere: it’s atmospheric with gothic overtones, and I’m interested in mythology and theology so I liked reading about the mysterious Essex Serpent and the religious debates between Cora and Will. The Serpent is used as a way of bringing to light the issues of the time: debates between science and religion, developments in medicine, poverty and social housing, morality and the role of women, all of which are interesting.

I can’t decide whether I liked Cora or not: unconventional female characters who don’t conform to the expectations of their time naturally appeal to me, and I liked the way she didn’t pay attention to her appearance. But then at times she did come across as condescending and insensitive to other people’s feelings.

I don’t think this will ever be a favourite novel of mine, I prefer something with a faster pace but it’s certainly unique in style.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2017 1:22 PM BST


Red Queen
Red Queen
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A more traditional fantasy novel than the first book, Alice, 8 May 2017
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This review is from: Red Queen (Kindle Edition)
This feels quite different to the first book Alice, which I loved. It becomes more like a regular fantasy novel, and loses the dark edge that makes Alice so unique. Alice is set in a fantasy-style criminal underworld, with human trafficking and gang warfare, whereas Red Queen reverts to a more traditional fairy tale setting: an enchanted forest, a castle on top of a mountain. It was still enjoyable, but it felt more like other fantasy novels I’ve read and didn’t stand out as much. I also missed the banter between Alice and Hatcher, as Hatcher was absent for the majority of the novel, having been turned into a wolf. I liked the twist at the end, though once Alice had defeated the goblin everything felt a bit too easy, especially her managing to return Hatcher from his wolf state. I don’t know if there’s going to be a third novel, but if there was I’d be interested to see where that one goes.


The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
Price: £9.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful for busy, modern women with anxiety, 3 May 2017
I found this book so helpful! It’s written by someone with personal experience of anxiety, it’s easy to read and includes helpful tasks to reduce anxiety. Some are tangible and physical, such as exercise and meditation, but the most useful parts for me were those that focused on reframing anxious thoughts and changing the way you think about decision making, guilt and what it means to be successful. I tried to incorporate these calm and positive patterns of thinking into my day and found that they did help to reduce my anxiety.

The only criticism that I’d have of the book is that it’s clearly aimed just at women, and professional, busy, middle class women at that. The techniques themselves would work equally well for men, but the book is addressed to women and often references the female body and female life experiences (not that there’s anything wrong with that as such, but it would be nice if men could benefit from the advice in the book too, as it’s good advice). I’m also not sure whether the book would be as useful for someone suffering from both anxiety and depression, or anyone whose mental health problems are rooted in serious trauma in early life. But it worked well for me.


Without You: An emotionally turbulent thriller by Richard & Judy bestselling author
Without You: An emotionally turbulent thriller by Richard & Judy bestselling author
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I really like the author’s writing style, 3 May 2017
After reading and enjoying the author’s first novel The Twins, I was looking forward to starting this one. It’s one of those books that you get into straight away; after the first chapter I was already feeling connected to the characters and the pace was fast right from the beginning. It’s a family drama with a bit of mystery, following the lives of Clara, Max and Faith as they come to terms with the loss of their daughter and sister Eva who is thought to have drowned at sea. However, Eva has actually been washed up on an abandoned island and is being held prisoner by a real life ‘Wild Man’ not far from her home (not a spoiler, we know this from the beginning). Eva’s chapters on her life in captivity and changing relationship with her captor Billy were intriguing and added a hint of thriller into the mix: while Billy is a disturbed young man and shows signs of paranoia and psychosis, he does not hurt Eva, but will not let her go as he believes she is there for a special purpose, as told to him by the voice in his head.

I really like the author’s writing style: there are lovely descriptions of the sea and landscape, and the characters are complex and well drawn, yet it never feels slow. The novel hurtles along revealing more and more about the secrets that each member of the family holds. It’s not often I read a novel with a happy ending, so I enjoyed that. There’s a bit of mystery and ambiguity in terms of what happened to Billy, which fits well with the idea of the ‘unknowable’ within the book: faith, instinct, myth and the power of nature.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique novel about the inherent goodness of people, 2 May 2017
At first the novel felt slow and I couldn’t buy into the idea of Harold’s walk: why not just take the train? But then I really got into it and started to enjoy following the ups and downs of the walk. It became clear that his walk has a spiritual significance; he wants to atone for the past and finally do something to escape his ordinary, unhappy life. Harold goes through many mental and physical changes during his walk, and becomes more in tune with nature and with the people he meets. There is a mystery at the heart of the walk: what can this ordinary, pleasant seeming man have done that warrants such atonement? What darkness lies at the root of his emotional separation from his wife? The big reveal about the way that Harold had wronged Queenie seemed slight, but his true guilt came from the ways that he feels he failed his wife and son. I was rooting for Harold and I’m glad that he didn’t give up, and that Maureen eventually came to support his pilgrimage and find happiness with her husband again. There is no evil in the book, just people who make mistakes with the best of intentions and are sometimes taken over by negative emotions. Despite the bittersweet ending when the sad news about Queenie and David emerges, the novel left me feeling a lot more positive about humanity.


Alice
Alice
Price: £4.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this and thought it was wonderfully written, 20 April 2017
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This review is from: Alice (Kindle Edition)
A very dark sequel to Alice in Wonderland. It begins ten years after Alice’s first trip down the rabbit hole, and she has spent that time in a mental hospital, along with her fellow inmate Hatcher (the mad hatter). Both have fragmented memories of what happened in the past, but when they escape from the hospital, they know that they must embark on a quest to defeat the Jabberwocky, and fight their own demons in the process.

I really enjoyed this and thought it was wonderfully written. It’s a dark, adult fairy tale, definitely not a children’s story. It’s quirky and full of magic, but Wonderland has become a criminal underworld where gang warfare, abuse and human trafficking are rife, and Alice is in constant danger of being taken and sold. Both Alice and Hatcher are drawn in a way that stays true to the original stories – Hatcher is quite clearly mad yet trustworthy and protective, while Alice comes across as both innocent and fragile, yet principled and brave too. Cheshire (the Cheshire Cat) and the Rabbit are Magicians and criminal overlords.

It’s a fairly short novel but I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Red Queen!


The Fire Child: The 2017 gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Ice Twins
The Fire Child: The 2017 gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Ice Twins
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars with lots of beautiful descriptions of the sea and the landscape of Cornwall, 20 April 2017
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A Gothic psychological thriller with hints of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It was very atmospheric, with lots of beautiful descriptions of the sea and the landscape of Cornwall, the light and shadows, the wind and the snow. The setting of an old, stately but dilapidated house belonging to an ancient family is a perfect location for a thriller with a hint of the supernatural. I like the way the author does that, both in this novel and in The Ice Twins: blends the psychological and the supernatural until the reader isn’t sure what is true and what isn’t.

I instinctively disliked David Kerthen from the beginning, and he becomes increasingly abusive. At the same time, I also immediately liked Rachel; even when you’re not sure whether she’s sane or not, and whether she’d done something bad in her past, somehow I was always rooting for her. No matter what she’s been through, she’s come out of it stronger, a survivor.

However, I didn’t think it quite matched up to The Ice Twins, which is one of the best thrillers I’ve read. The plot wasn’t quite as strong, and it didn’t feel as unique. There were also a couple of things that annoyed me about the writing: the repetition of the history of the mines and of the place names, which slowed the plot and took away some of the tension, and the way that Rachel sometimes slipped into sexist cliché: giving up her career when she meets a rich husband, desperate to get pregnant.

You have to suspend disbelief when it comes to the final twist, as it’s pretty ‘out there’. And Rachel did seem to slip too quickly between sanity and deep psychosis at the end. But it does fit with the clues throughout the novel, and makes sense of Jamie’s seemingly supernatural abilities, and the psychological connection between Rachel and Jamie. I expected the ending to be sad or bittersweet, like in The Ice Twins, but this one has a happy ending. I was glad that Rachel got that, after all she’d been through.


The Distant Echo (Detective Karen Pirie, Book 1)
The Distant Echo (Detective Karen Pirie, Book 1)
Price: £4.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars but I also felt it was overlong with too much unnecessary detail. Somehow the friendship between the four boys ..., 20 April 2017
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This is the first book I’ve read by this author. There wasn’t anything wrong with it as such, but it didn’t really grab me or stand out as much as I thought it might. I could tell it was well plotted and constructed, but I also felt it was overlong with too much unnecessary detail. Somehow the friendship between the four boys didn’t ring true to me: they seemed to have nothing in common and only Alex was likeable, so I didn’t feel emotionally invested in them. The twist was a good one though: I didn’t guess it until fairly close to the end of the book, but once you know it, all the clues fit into place. I think I’d only read another by this author if the plot was something really intriguing.


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